While driving through the Northern parts of the Lebombo concession, a guide calls in over the radio that he has just located two lionesses. Both the animals were lactating as their mamary glands were enlarged. This got me really excited and I knew if we was patient and spent some time with these animals we stood a good chance of being introduced to her cubs.
As we gained visual of the two cats, they separated and I decided to stick with the one that was heading staight toward a large drainage line, a perfect area for her to hide her youngsters. She was walking with purpose and the excitement levels started to build amongst us in the vehicle. We followed her for about thirty minutes keeping our distance, being careful not to disturb her. She eventually lead us through a drainage line toward a dense thicket protected by large amoured thorns. Switching off the vehicle, all in silence, heads cocked in anticipation, we listened. Time passed as we sat under the cover of a large sigamore fig waiting, and eager to find out if this was the very place this lioness had chosen to hide her cubs. To our amazement we heard a faint cry coming from deep withing the inaccessible brush, a sound that could only be produced by a lion cub.
We approached cautiously towards the thicket and finally gained visual of two tiny cubs, no more than three weeks old. It was such a build up to such an incredible reward. What was so astonishing to me was how relaxed the mother was with the presence of the vehicle, showing no sign of aggression. The cubs grew inquisitive and eventually approached within a meter of the vehicle constantly calling, seeking their mother’s approval. These cubs were very young and had not yet been introduced to the rest of the pride. What an incredible moment it was.
We discussed how vital it was for the cubs to have a safe haven and that during the hiding period they were at great risk. But these cubs were very well hidden and stood a good chance of survival. I felt privilaged to have been aquainted with these tiny creatures and grateful to their mother for tolorating our presence.
Keep up with our weekly blog series as James Suter takes us on a journey through the African bushveld, bringing the wild closer.